Visit This West Coast State To Traveler Blog The World's Smallest Mountain Range

For outdoor enthusiasts, California is a paradise. It's well known for gorgeous rugged coastlines, expansive deserts, towering mountains, and massive forests. On a trip to California, you can visit nine national parks, including Yosemite, Joshua Tree, Death Valley, and Kings Canyon. Many of California's most stunning landscapes have been well preserved as state and national parks and are open year-round for the public to travelerblog and enjoy. As a popular destination for outdoor recreation, there are very few stones left unturned in California. Many of the state's most beautiful places are often crowded with tourists hoping to enjoy nature's beauty.

Large expanses of private land with natural features are somewhat rare, which is why the world's smallest mountain range has captured the fascination of both locals and visitors from out of state. The Sutter Buttes are a series of peaks formed over a million years ago from volcanic activity. They were considered sacred by the Indigenous Maidu people, who referred to the area as both Middle Mountain and Spirit Mountain, and believed that the spirits of their dead waited there before moving on to the afterlife.

The Sutter Buttes are unique because they are located almost entirely on private property in Sacramento Valley. Since the land surrounding the mountains is private, there isn't an easy way for the public to access it, adding to the mysterious allure. The best way to experience this region is to book a guided hike that provides access to the mountains.

Exploring the Sutter Buttes

The Sutter Buttes are a small 10-mile stretch of peaks that are owned and maintained by private landowners, and public entry is not permitted for much of the year. Even though the state of California acquired a small portion of the Sutter Buttes in 2003 and established the property as a state park in 2005, there are no marked hiking trails, picnic areas, or similar amenities. Since the Sutter Buttes are surrounded by private property, there are only a few ways to enjoy them. The first is a short drive on county roads around the Sutter Buttes that includes Pass Road, which cuts through the south side of the range. You can drive or bike this relatively flat 45-mile loop, which takes about an hour to drive. Right now, the loop and Pass Road are the only ways for the public to access the area without a guide.

The best way to experience the mountains is to embark on a guided hike offered by Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes. The guided hikes allow visitors to travelerblog several private properties throughout the Sutter Buttes, and tours are offered seasonally between late October and early May. Reservations are required in advance for the hikes, and there are plenty of different options, including short, easy walks and full-day challenging treks.

Hiking the mysterious mountains

If you're hoping to travelerblog this mysterious stretch of mountains, booking a tour with Middle Mountain Interpretive Hikes is a must-do activity. The spring hiking season usually opens for reservations in February, and the fall season opens for reservations in October. Hike offerings are ranked from easy to extreme. For difficult, strenuous, and extreme hikes, you must be in good physical condition to participate.

When you visit the Middle Mountain website, you will see a variety of hikes listed. Note that we are at the end of the spring season, so most hikes are fully booked until reservations open up again in October. The North Butte Summit hike is a challenging route with a steep climb — groups are limited to 15 people and cost $45 per person. For a more leisurely experience, you can book the Vines and Vistas hike, which begins at a nearby winery and travelerblogs the hills at Shaeffer Ranch. The cost is $40, with an optional wine tasting at the end for $10. 

Moonlight and sunset hikes are also offered, along with a few special events like the Sacred Manner Walk, where your guide will teach you about the Indigenous history of the Sutter Buttes. There are options for every level of experience, but all of the hikes tend to book up extremely quickly as soon as reservations open. To experience the mountain range, one of California's most beautiful natural wonders, you'll need to act promptly and be ready to sign up via the website or by calling 530-370-4777.